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On the importance of people and processes

“The hardest thing about energy efficiency investing is making the invisible visible”.

USEW - for article

In our interview from March 2023, Peter Sweatman, EEFIG Rapporteur, uses the analogy that energy efficiency is like magic: the 50W halogen lamp is replaced by a 4W LED providing the same quality and colour light, but uses 92% less energy with the exact same result. However, unlike magic, doing something surprising for a fraction of the cost, is always less exciting than doing something brand new. Yet EEFIG has ignited that. Made the magic, and can power Europe for so much less.

The real magician, however, or should we say magicians, are the EEFIG Working Group members whose hard work and brain power are the main driver of the last 10 years’ successful changes in the energy efficiency financing sector.

From 30 to over 500

The first EEFIG meeting was held in Belgium in the Albert Borchette Congress Centre on 29th November 2013. A group of around 30 people were gathered by the EU Commission and UNEP FI to discuss, identify, and document solutions to the energy efficiency finance and investment problem.

“Even then it was clear that energy efficiency investing was not as easy for financial institutions as building new wind and solar plants, and there was a common interest by the Commission, energy efficiency stakeholders and financiers to identify the reasons why and see how to address them together. It was also clear that it was hard to talk to financial institutions about energy efficiency,” Peter Sweatman says.

Fast forward to ten years later: EEFIG has a loose membership of over 500 people divided into ten different expert Working Groups.

Only the best are chosen

A membership of the EEFIG community required – and requires still – a serious interest in the substance of, and practical expertise in energy efficiency investing as well as the exact right mix of experience and skills for the tasks ahead – and to the specific Working Group.

Firstly, to become a member of EEFIG, you must request membership and have a delegated no-objection clearance from the EU Commission and the EEFIG consortium. Then, to join a specific working group, you express interest and there is an individual assessment with scores against specific criteria for that subject matter. Each and every one of these experts are valued for their respective Working Group, and for doing the EEFIG magic.

In November 2011, the EU Commission identified just 25 energy efficiency and investment experts for the first preparatory meeting which led to EEFIG. This was almost exactly four years prior to the adoption of the Paris Agreement at COP21. And with a rising focus on the matter over the years, more education, and a growing network, that number has now risen to over 500 experts.

In 2013 - before the common usage of the term “sustainable finance”, which really only came into its own with the adoption of the Paris Agreement, by 190 countries, which stipulates that these parties must make "finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development."

EEFIG was launched several years ahead of the High-level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance, and ahead of the Technical Expert Group on Sustainable Finance (TEG) and first and second generation of the Commission’s Sustainable Finance Platform.

Making magic together

EEFIG has had increasing impact and importance over time as it has pursued its own recommendations, year after year, with the Commission, the UNEP FI and now several hundred active members. It gave birth to a G20 task group (the Energy Efficiency Finance Task Group, supported by UNEP FI, the IEA, the OECD and the International Partnership for Energy Efficiency Collaboration) which drafted the G20 Energy Efficiency Investment Toolkit, referenced by global leaders in Hamburg in 2017. EEFIG’s work was also cited by the IEA’s Global Commission for Urgent Action on Energy Efficiency who reported in June of 2020, and it was called upon in the context of RePowerEU and the EU Save energy communication last year.

Between 2011 and 2020, Horizon 2020 and Intelligent Energy Europe funded over 100 projects focused on finance for energy efficiency, which contributed to the implementation of EEFIG recommendations in EU Member States, and over 40 of these projects have a direct programming connection to the work of EEFIG, and its members.

In February 2015 the first EEFIG report “Energy Efficiency – the first fuel for the EU Economy” was launched from the office of Maroš Šefčovič, the then vice-president of the European commission in charge of energy policy, on the same day he also launched the EU’s Energy Union strategy.

The power of this report was huge: It was a hard-won consensus from 100 organisations who put their name to it, of which 40% were financial institutions. This was the first time such a powerful and representative group has provided such detailed recommendations – 31 in total. The 31 recommendations were made explicitly by sector (buildings, industry and SMEs) and directed at one of three implementing agencies: 1) EU Commission, 2) Member States and local authorities; and 3) Market participants themselves. The EU Commission and UN Environment Programme both got behind the recommendations and used their respective powers to impact policies and market participants based upon the report.

“Internally, people were thankful and relieved after two years of pretty intense and technical work to get the report published. The EEFIG website got the most visits of all when Deutsche Bank posted a link to EEFIG’s work on its global homepage. Based upon data from the EU Commission, the EEFIG report was one of the most downloaded reports at that time,” Peter accounts.

Changing the world

So, to conclude, it’s not a coincidence that EEFIG’s members have closed over 24,000 energy efficiency investments which are now included in the DEEP database, and that EEFIG’s members contain all of Europe’s leading energy efficiency lenders and specialist funds, most of which were launched since EEFIG started its work 10 years ago. 
Policies and laws are just words on the page, but backed with legislative power they change the world.  
Happy 10th anniversary to our valuable members!